The Sewing Report: Making Bias Tape

clovertapemaker

Clover Bias Tape Maker

Who’da thunk it would be this fun making bias tape? Please note that I bought the Clover Bias Tape Maker on my own and they don’t even know that I have their product, let alone that I liked it.

I don’t remember if I read about the giz-watchy in Threads Magazine or if I just saw it at one of my favorite fabric stores, but I finally bought the one that makes 1/2-inch bias tape. I was tempted to go nuts and buy all the different sizes, but for once prudence won out, and I bought the one to try first.

Which is kind of interesting, because the purchase coincided with a slight problem I was having that has absolutely nothing to do with bias tape. While playing around, looking for sites that showed how to make clothing from the 1920s, I stumbled onto DressmakingResearch.com, and specifically, a page showing instructions from 1924 on how to drape a dress. Now, for those of you who don’t know, most clothes are made from paper patterns that you use to cut out the individual pieces of a dress or pair of pants, then sew together. One of the ways designers use to get that pattern is they drape fabric on a person or dressmaker’s dummy, then cut away what they don’t want. This is called draping. And I’m just crazy enough to want to try it.

Well, I have a perfectly good length of mystery fiber fabric that I’d bought at Michael Levine’s Loft, located spang in the middle of the Los Angeles Garment District. The Loft, itself, is worthy of a whole post on its own, but what they sell there are the end pieces of bolts that the local manufacturers can’t use – and they sell it for $2.50 a pound. So I’d gotten this lovely cotton and something lavender fabric with a nifty design woven in and I thought it would be perfect for my draping experiment, especially since I’d gotten it for dirt cheap.

The instruction call out several yards of ribbon, but I couldn’t find one that worked well with the fabric – and I have several pieces of purple and mauve ribbons to prove it. So I’m trying to figure out what to do and at the same time, was wondering what to use to test out my bias tape maker and bing, bing, bing! I can make bias tape from the fabric I want to drape with. So I did.

Bias1

Close up of the bias on a piece of fabric

The bias tape maker (giz-watchy) is only part of the process. You have to make the bias strips, first, which is actually pretty easy if you have a pre-made pattern piece – some outfits ask you to make your own bias binding. I have a couple patterns with the piece, but they’re buried somewhere in all my patterns. I found this tutorial from Dread Pirate Roberts (obviously a Princess Bride fan), which made things even easier. What you do is you layout a block on the fabric’s bias. Almost all fabric is woven with the threads crossing each other at 90-degree angles. So the straight grain is parallel to the length-wise threads, crosswise is parallel to the width-wise threads, and bias is the 45-degree angle that bisects those 90-degree intersections. You sew two ends of that bias block together, with the ends staggered, so that you can cut along the long edge of the tube you just made in an ongoing loop that will turn into yards of bias stripping.

Bias2Here’s the fun part. Once you’ve got your stripping made, you get your iron ready, and you poke your strip through the wide end of the bias tape maker, pull the fabric through the giz-watchy, which folds the long edges over, pressing it with the iron as you go. And then you have perfectly folded bias tape to attach to whatever you want. It’s not a lead-pipe cinch – I did have to fiddle with my first couple feet. The trick, I discovered, was keeping the iron as close to the nose of the giz-watchy as possible. The other trick was finding a way to spool my stripping so it didn’t get all tangled, as well as improvising a take-up reel for the finished tape.

So I now have all this tape I can use instead of ribbon on my dress. When I get around to draping it. Eventually. Really.

How to cook, cooking for beginners, cooking without recipes

From the Dark Side of the Fridge: Cleaning Up

Cleaning up is easier when you leave everything on a cutting mat or board

Cleaning up is easier when you leave everything on a cutting mat or board

It may seem a little counter-intuitive to start our learning how to cook journey by starting at the end of the process. But let’s be real. Even folks who love to cook (which ain’t me) generally hate cleaning up.

Yet, how you go about getting dinner on the table can make a difference when you have to get it off the table and into the dishwasher. We’ve all heard the old saw, “Clean as you go.” My mom loved that one and I hated it. Until I got my own kitchen and realized she was right. Now, it doesn’t make sense to hold up dinner while you wash the pots and pans right then and there. The food will get cold and that would be icky. But while you’re waiting for the noodles in the skillet casserole to cook through, you can certainly unload the dishwasher and reload it with last night’s dishes. Or make sure the counters and your cutting boards and knives are clean.

It’s especially important to clean your knives as you use them. For one thing, they are your most commonly used tools and you want your knife ready to go when you are. Secondly, letting them sit on the counter while waiting to be cleaned means they’ll bump up against all the other pots and dishes waiting to be cleaned and that can damage that all-important sharp edge. Thirdly, it’s a lot faster, easier and safer to clean a freshly-used blade than one that has something dried on and stuck. A sharp knife is a much safer knife, but it’s also a little scary to scrub hard to get that last bit of dried-on garlic off. Much simpler to run it under some hot water, wipe with a wash cloth and then a towel before the garlic gets dried-on.

As important as clean as you go is, there is one other mantra to mutter repetitively until it’s ingrained: “Don’t make any more mess than you have to.” The bowl or pot that you don’t use is the bowl or pot that doesn’t have to be cleaned. Or in our house, sit around on the counter until one of us (usually my husband) gets tired of all the dirty dishes and finally does something about it.

You know all those cooking shows with each ingredient neatly measured into little bowls? Don’t do that. It just means all those little bowls have to sit around until they get put into the dishwasher, then pulled out of the dishwasher, possibly dried, then put away. Let me demonstrate a better way as I walk you through a variation on the classic French dish ratatouille.

Ratatouille is basically zucchini, eggplant and tomato all chopped up and sauteed with some garlic, onion, herbs and white wine. Oh, and bell pepper. I hate bell pepper. I leave it out. Actually, I also detest zucchini and eggplant, but rather like them in ratatouille because the tomatoes and herbs cover up the icky flavors in the eggplant and zucchini.

In this case, I wanted some meat to go with dinner, but didn’t want to grill or cook something separately. I also had some romano beans (or whatever they call wide, flat green beans in your neck of the woods) that were gearing up for a quick trip to the compost bucket if I didn’t use them. What you can’t see in the photo above is that I had a pound and a half of ground turkey on the stove getting nice and brown while I cut up the onion, zucchini, a Japanese eggplant, and the green beans. And pressed a couple cloves of garlic – all of which I left on the cutting mat.

When the turkey was almost browned, I picked up the mat and slid the onions into the pan with the turkey. I stirred, let them cook for a couple, then did the same with the green beans, and then the zucchini, eggplant, the garlic, and finally, a can of diced tomatoes (no chopping to do and no juicy mess). I added about half a glass of white wine and drank the other half. I often pour the wine straight from the bottle, but that’s not the safest thing to do. You can also use the tomato can to measure your wine, which helps rinse it, as well – about half to a third full. Finally, I picked up some salt out of my salt cellar, sprinkled it over everything, measured about a tablespoon’s worth of Herbes de Provence into my hand, tossed that in, ground some pepper over it all, stirred, then let it simmer about 15 to 20 minutes to get the beans cooked through and all the flavors melding and playing nice with each other. Notice – no measuring cups or spoons to clean. Okay, one wine glass, but that was going to happen anyway. I cleaned up the cutting mat and the knife and put them away. Rinsed the can, put it into recyratatouille2cling.

To serve, I plopped the ratatouille into bowls and put those on the table. Boom. Done. No serving bowls to clean. It’s called plating, and it’s also very helpful if there are folks at your table trying not to eat too much. You’ve got automatic portion control, although that kind of goes by the wayside if someone gets up and fetches more.

So there you have it – a veggie-rich complete meal that’s respectably low in calories, very tasty, took about forty minutes when all was said and done (I’d forgotten to thaw the turkey again), cooked in one pan, with only one dish and a fork per person. And the wine glass. Which took all of five minutes to clean up after, or would have had we actually done so that night.

Essays, general essay

Stray Thoughts: Born on July 4

fireworksI’m a Yankee Doodle Dandy,

A Yankee Doodle, do or die;

A real live nephew niece of my Uncle Sam,

Born on the Fourth of July.

(George M. Cohan)

Yeah – that’s my theme song, at least this time of year. I actually hesitated to even mention my birthday because, frankly, I’ve already gotten my share of good wishes from the Facebook crowd. But then my mother said I needed to write about it.

Well, it is both a blessing and a curse to have a birthday on a major holiday. It can be kind of cool and distinctive to be born on July 4. I have never worked or gone to school on my birthday. People always grin when they hear what day my birthday is.

But there are also some significant downsides. Like, birthday parties. Ever try to do a princess party in red, white and blue? I did get the Cinderella cake when I turned 6 (or was if 5?), but the majority of the cakes and decorations were fireworks, flags and buntings. Mom said there wasn’t much else available.

Worse yet, while my school mates and friends could have their birthday parties on their actual birthdays, I never got to. Everyone was celebrating with their families. Even now, when most adults have to wait for the weekend to celebrate their birthdays, I seldom get a birthday party. When am I going to have it? Folks still celebrate holidays with their families. And if I do get invited to a party, it’s about the holiday. Which is fine. It just makes the few parties I’ve had that much more special.

I think the jokes are the worst, though. Any idea how many times I’ve been called a firecracker? By my parents? (Thanks for dropping that one this year, Mom.) One wise-ass even suggested my pigtails looked like fuses – so should have blown up on him. And, yes, it is true that I briefly thought the fireworks were for me, but I was four. That’s four years old, barely old enough to understand the concept of a birthday, let alone a whole nation. It’s been a few years. I’ve figured it out.

It could be a lot worse. I have a friend whose birthday is on December 25. Now that one seriously sucks, with all the two-for-one presents, and talk about your birthday getting lost in all the celebrating. She turned 50 before she got her own birthday party. Blech!

So, I’m not complaining. Just pointing out that having a distinctive birthday is not all sunshine and lollipops. Ultimately, being born on July 4 is more fun than not.

In fact, I’ve got a song about my birthday. Cool, huh? This is from the movie they made about composer and songwriter George M. Cohan, Yankee Doodle Dandy, starring James Cagney as Cohan. And I’ll leave you with the YouTube clip from the film:

Essays, general essay

Stray Thoughts: Dog Pictures

It’s a fifth Tuesday and I thought for fun, I’d throw up a few dog pictures featuring our own WunderHund Clyde!

Clyde1

Or should I say Clyde in his natural state – sleeping. Clyde’s a basset hound, basically a speed bump with legs. He’s a lot of fun and very expressive.

Clyde2

Yes, Clyde, we’re talking about you. Plaintive seems to be his best look. Oh, and here’s a very short video of Clyde running.

My husband is the one out-running Clyde. We were at our local dog park. Scary thing is, not 10 minutes later – after I’d put my phone away, of course – Clyde took off running after a whippet, of all things. You know, one of those smaller versions of a grayhound? Go figure.

And because Dorothy Parker always gets the last word, here’s one of her.

Parker

If you enjoyed these shots, I send similar pics of the critters out every month in The Robin Goodfellow Newsletter. Won’t you please sign up in the box at the top of the column on the right? Not only will you get fun pet pictures of Clyde and Parker, you’ll get quick updates on the blogs and where I’m selling soap and other fun stuff. I promise to keep it short and entertaining.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Carless in L.A.: Get Out of Your Car and Say Hi

PeoplewalkingWhen I heard about the race-based shootings in Charleston, South Carolina, last week, I got angry. All I could think was that this has got to stop. We have to do something about racism. Every one of us.

Now, you may ask, what does this have to do with trying to live a greener life? Everything. Because who are we saving the planet for if not for our fellow human beings? We can live greener than green, but if our hearts are polluted by the non-thinking tendency to believe the worst in others not like us, then what’s the point? We live green to create a livable and beautiful world, but that has to include a whole lot of folks who don’t look like us. Or think like us.

But first, we have to acknowledge that while we are not violent White Supremacists (and I’m not even suggesting that we are), we – especially those of us who are White – have to face up to the negative stereotypes we have of others not like us. We may not consciously harbor negative thoughts about others, but they’re there. They happen. Our media are filled with negative stereotypes and images of people of color, with few positive images to balance the negative ones. We can’t help but be affected by that. I’ve taken classes in African American culture. I have several Black friends and I’ve done and said stupid things.

The trick is to face it and work harder at getting rid of those negative attitudes. You can’t fix something you refuse to acknowledge exists. And I think I have a way to do it, which also happens to correspond to the main theme of living green and, in our case, without owning a car.

Racism is based on fear. I think that’s pretty obvious. So if we’re going to get past this, we need to take the fear out of the equation. How to do that? We get out of our cars.

I’m serious. When I first started using public transportation more, back when I was living in the Chicago area, I noticed something odd. People said hello to me as I passed them on the street of the northern Chicago suburb where I was living. Okay, after a lifetime in the suburbs of Southern California, passing people on the street was weird enough. But some people – all of whom, by the way, were Black – said, “Hi, how are you?” as I walked past them. And it felt good. So I began saying hi back. And that felt better.

Then when we gave up our car, I began saying hi to everyone as I walked past them. I nodded and smiled at folks on the bus. I even spent one day doing nothing but praying for each person I encountered – not aloud, but enough that I was connected to all the people around me.

I know some of you are thinking, “But what if you’re saying hi to a gangster or rapist or crazy killer?” The odds are astronomically against it, though I could be. But I don’t think I’m putting myself at risk by doing so. In fact, given my self-defense training, I have good reason to believe that I’m actually doing something protective.The first principle of self-defense is being aware of your surroundings. Saying hi to people means I’m doing exactly that. Also, when I say hi to someone, I’m immediately telling that person two things. One, that I’ve seen him or her and could probably identify that person (not at all what your average crook wants), and two, that I’m not afraid of that person. If the person is your basic good person, like 99.99 percent are, then me not being afraid is reassuring and friendly. If I happen to come across that somebody nasty, well, folks like that do not want to mess with someone who isn’t afraid. That’s why self-defense coaches tell women to put on that bad-ass attitude when they’re walking around. And, finally, people don’t generally attack people who are nice to them.

So here is my challenge to you – get out of your car for a day or two and take a walk around your neighborhood. Or the next neighborhood over. Offer each person a confident, pleasant hello. See what happens. You may just find that that kid with his pants down past his backside is the local honor student. You may just find your heart growing lighter. You may just find that you’re making life on this planet just a little bit better, and that’s kind of the point of this whole exercise, isn’t it?

The Sewing Report: The end of the Pants Fitting Saga

The end of the pants sagaSo-o-o-o-o, a few months ago, I reported on sewing the most perfect patch pockets I had ever made only to find the pants didn’t fit. Which was beyond aggravating and last month I whined a little more about it. Well, I finally got the verdamnt pants fitting and done. Raised the back waistband a bit. Added an inset along the side – which my good friend Hilary had suggested and I resisted until I realized that the original pattern included one on top of the inset along the inner legs. The waistband is still a little low and keeping them up will be a challenge, but I’m done. I’m getting suspenders and I will wear the pants. It’s just going to have to wait until November because they’re corduroy and it’s too hot now.

Granted, the weekend schedule around the Old Homestead has been a little packed. But I have to say, it’s pretty cool what happens when I finally get a problem project done. I finished the pants during Memorial Day weekend and cut out a few more projects, never mind that I had at least three waiting for me. Oh, and I made bias tape, but I’m saving that for a later post.top and skirt

But this weekend, I finished the skirt I’d cut out on Memorial Day. It was a way-easy straight skirt, which meant I could draft the pattern straight onto the fabric (a useful tactic since my measurements tend to be a moving target). Better yet, I could put reminders, such as seam widths, right onto the fabric, and, boy, did that help. I did remember to document my notes, though.

I also sewed up a blouse I’d cut out, sheez, maybe a year ago? It’s been a while, certainly over six months ago. Figures – I’d put on a bit more weight since then and the blouse is a little tight, dummit. But here’s the cool part – if you look at the top part and see those diamond-shapes?I made trapunto embroidery, which is not at all hard to do if you have a double needle. It does help if you make it on a piece of fabric that matches your eventual outfit and one that is large enough for the pattern pieces you’re using. It also helps to cut out enough collar pieces the first time around.shirt close up

So, the lessons learned are 1.) when you’re stuck on a project, sometimes it helps just to power through the mess and get it out of your face; 2.) documenting little things like what seam allowance you’re using where makes it a lot easier when you’re putting everything together; 3) taking good notes for your future self will save your backside; and 4) you don’t make mistakes – you take advantage of them and create design details instead.

Anybody know where I can get some really cool suspenders?

How to cook, cooking for beginners, cooking without recipes

From the Dark Side of the Fridge: Learn to Cook

FoodBasicsFotoedited

Last month, I went on a tear about how TV (in the person of Chef Gordon Ramsey) is totally messing us up about what is good home cooking. Shortly after my little call to action to encourage folks to cook more at home, I realized that I’d stepped in it. Part of the reason a lot of folks don’t cook at home is that they don’t know how to cook.

I’m not talking about following a recipe. That’s not that hard to do, and many folks do it quite successfully. But being able to recognize that there’s a problem with a recipe, knowing what to substitute when you discover you don’t have a critical ingredient, being able to figure out when you really need to follow this or that step and when you can buzz on to the next one – you need to know how to cook to do all that.

And even if you do know the basics of cooking, day to day cooking is a grind. I’ll admit it. I don’t particularly like cooking. Come 6 p.m., I would much rather be folding my hands around a dry martini than a wet flounder, to quote my patron saint Peg Bracken, author of The I Hate to Cook Book. I know foodies snub it because so many of the recipes rely on canned soup. But, seriously, it’s actually an early feminist tract. The book came out in 1960, the heart of The Mad Men Era, when women were expected to find caring for their loved ones the end-all, be-all of their lives and here’s good, old St. Peg suggesting that women could find other things more fulfilling, even if the cooking still had to get done.

In any case, I began to understand the real reason for this space. I need to teach folks how to cook. And I’m the best one to do it because, unlike folks who genuinely find it relaxing to come home and start chopping veggies, I don’t. I get it that you’ve got a mess at work to untangle, three kids to keep from killing each other, and a guilty conscience for giving in and stopping at the drive-through window for the third time this week. No, you’re not particularly interested in whipping up a meringue by hand for a dessert after making a full dinner (another skill Ramsey thinks everyone should have).

I’m also a darned good cook – which has a lot to do with the fact that I love to eat. And I’ve learned how to make tasty food that’s reasonably healthy, but more to the point, how to get it onto the table with a minimum of fuss and mess. I’ve had to deal with the picky eater, being tired to the bone and too broke to afford delivery, waltzing into the kitchen to make dinner and realizing I forgot to take the chicken breasts out of the freezer again. I get it. You’ve got something on the stove that’s just about done and that’s when the kids decide to start throwing blocks at each other, you have to deal with that right then, but then what you were cooking ends up the color and consistency of a hockey puck. That sort of thing is very discouraging.

Which is why I’m here to help. You can boil water. More to the point, I’ll let you know when you need to and when it’s a waste of time and energy. You can eat healthy meals made from scratch that don’t contribute to global warming and labor injustice, and still have some money in your bank account afterwards. And some time to sit down with the people you care about and relax. I’m here and I will lead you through The Dark Side of the Fridge.

Essays, general essay

Stray Thoughts: Why You Should Care about Women in Hollywood

From the surface, it looks like the kind of “inside baseball,” only relevant to those immediately involved kinds of stories. But when I saw this Los Angeles Times story last May, about gender discrimination in Hollywood, I realized it’s a much bigger story.

The gist of the story is that the American Civil Liberties Union has decided to goose the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, along with the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing and the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs to start investigating Hollywood’s woeful track record regarding hiring women and people of color for directing jobs.

You may think this is about a bunch of rich White kids whining. It’s anything but. What folks don’t get is that the directors are the ones who are telling our stories in the two most influential media around: films and television. And over 80 percent of the folks directing our TV shows are White men. Almost 98 percent of the people directing the top 100 money-making films from the last two years were White men.

I’ve got nothing against White men, nor am I saying that they can’t tell a woman’s story without some sensitivity and understanding. What I’m objecting to is that they have the majority voice on the telling of my experience – which seems a little out of proportion to me. Okay, a lot out of proportion. And that’s not even considering the problems faced by women of color in The Industry.

I and a lot of other women complain quite a bit (and quite appropriately) about the sexist images of women in the media – about how we’re portrayed as little more than sex objects or kick-ass types who ape male characteristics, but still have big boobs. And women are justifiably frustrated by how entrenched these attitudes are. But if the people largely responsible for telling the stories are all guys, how’s that going to change?

As the LA Times story pointed out, it’s going to be hard to bring that kind of change about via the courts. Hiring in Hollywood involves too many different entities.

But what we have forgotten is that Hollywood responds to only one voice – the box office (or the virtual one involving advertising dollars). We’re the ones buying the tickets, so ultimately, we’re the ones with the power. We’re the ones watching the shows, buying the products. Individually, maybe we’re not so loud. But collectively, we are invincible.

So I say it’s time to start raising hell. You can start by sharing this post or writing another like it. You can start by avoiding films directed by men. You can start by commenting every time someone complains about how women and minorities are portrayed in films and on TV and reminding folks that Hollywood is a closed, exclusive community that will only hire White guys. When we make noise, we get noticed. Trust me, the nice folks making your movies and TV shows do not want to look insensitive or sexist – never mind that they are. If we, the ordinary people out there, start complaining loudly enough and the dollars follow, we can and will change things.

The Sewing Report: It’s Not Been Going Well

SeamPinnedI didn’t mean to sound snarky. My husband was, after all, offering to bring my lunch to the easy chair where he thought I was doing some hand-sewing.

“I’m unsewing,” I grumbled. As in taking apart a seam. Actually, three of them – two side seams and part of the inseam.

Some of you may remember a couple months ago, I did a perfect install of two gorgeous patch pockets onto the back of some new pants. Problem was, the pants didn’t fit. And, yes, it did take me a couple months to get around to picking apart the side seams in the hopes of making them smaller.

I don’t usually have problems measuring and cutting, so I was rather peeved when I couldn’t get the pants on, not to mention the back being way too low. I like low waistbands, but this was a bit much. Here’s the interesting thing – the pants still didn’t fit even after I made them bigger. Best I can figure is that it’s the crotch seam that’s too tight. Now I just have to figure out how to add a gusset to make it all bigger without it showing too much and calling attention to my crotch.

Which means I may be finding other things to do with my sewing time. Kind of like I’ve been doing for the past two months. Okay, not really. It has been busy. But playing games with gussets is not my idea of a good time. But the pants are so cute. But what if it shows? But, but, but…..

How to cook, cooking for beginners, cooking without recipes

From the Dark Side of the Fridge: Real Home Cooking

DinnerPlatesWineI forget when Master Chef premiered on Fox, but it was about three or four years ago, back when I was a TV critic. That’s the competition show in which ordinary people put their cooking skills up against each other in the usual challenges and eliminations. It features Chef Gordon Ramsey as the head judge. I was watching the advance screener of the show and realized I was getting really annoyed. At first, I thought it was Ramsey, who is annoyingly full of himself, and wrote it off as his schtick.

But then he kept going on about how the competition was about celebrating home cooks. And I realized he was celebrating home cooks by turning them into restaurant chefs. Huh? And then there was his big thing about having to use only the finest ingredients? Say what?

That’s when I started feeling a little insulted. It was as if Ramsey was saying the only good cooking is done in restaurants by people who use only the best. Excuse me, it does not take any great talent, though maybe some training, to make fabulous ingredients taste good. You want to make Kobe beef taste good? You sprinkle some salt and pepper on it and make sure it doesn’t overcook. That’s it, baby. The finest ingredients are easy. The really talented cooks are the ones who can make the lousy ingredients taste good.

If you think that’s impossible, then you have been brainwashed by Ramsey and others of his ilk. Women have been making lousy cuts of meat, entrails and borderline vegetables taste fabulous for generations. Some of the great French classic dishes, including coq au vin, boeuf bourgignon and cassoulet started out as hearty peasant fare, cooked by women trying to figure out how to make stringy old chicken and scraps of stringy meat taste good. African American women took the worst bits of the pig and made chitlins a delicacy. Chinese women made chicken feet tasty.

I’m not saying there isn’t a lot to be learned from restaurant cooks. There is. And I love eating in restaurants, so please do not take anything written here as negating any of that. But home cooking is a different beast and if you want to celebrate it, then don’t focus on the hobbyists, who spend the weekend carefully shopping, then using every pan and dish in the kitchen whipping up some fabulous gourmet treat, placed perfectly on a plate worthy of a magazine layout. Focus on the women and men who day in and day out, stretch their food budget out to buy what they can afford, then get dinner on the table night after night, after long days working at whatever they do. Who create delicious meals out of nothing and a warm and welcoming space for families to come together and share their lives and be present to each other.

There’s a lot being said about the obesity epidemic in this country. There are many, many factors, including inactive lifestyles, and over-processed foods loaded with sugars. But I would argue that a big part of the problem is too many meals eaten in restaurants. I know that’s when I start to gain weight. And I start losing when I eat at home. Which also means that a good solution to the epidemic might be getting folks to start cooking and eating at home. We, as humans, connect over food. Meals form the basis of religious ritual in both Judaism and Christianity. Food is community.

There are those who insist that connecting with each other through food and meals is dangerous, that it’s what’s making us fat. I want to knock those idiots upside the head. The obesity epidemic started when the tradition of the sit-down family meal started falling apart. The solution to obesity isn’t making us afraid of our food, but instead (and counter-intuitively) it may well be to make us fall in love with our food again. And with spending time together in the kitchen and at the dining room table.

Yes, daily cooking can be a real grind. It’s not easy to come up with dishes that are tasty and healthy and budget conscious every night. But we do it because it’s important, not only for our physical health, but the health of our spirits. Because it’s important for growing healthy, loving families. Kind of like what our moms did for many of us when we were growing up. And generations of mothers before that.

Gordon Ramsey does not believe in home cooking. He believes in restaurant cooking at home – which has its place. But real home cooking isn’t about showing off. It’s about getting it done. It’s not about the finest ingredients. It’s about making the ingredients you have taste great. Real home cooking is about bringing families – however you define that – together in what winemaker Wes Hagen called “The last great analog ritual.” It’s the most important work there is.